Optimization of the competitive swimming track start based on lower limb asymmetry

Julie Hardt

    Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

    291 Downloads (Pure)


    The swimming track start is a complex motor skill that utilizes asymmetric lower limb action. The purpose of this study was to explore whether it could be optimized by applying the commonly accepted view that there are asymmetries in the function and behaviors of the lower limbs. Initially, the study aimed to examine the relationship between various measures of lower limb asymmetry and the swimmers' preferences for forward foot placement in the swimming track start. Participants underwent a 7 week training period whereby both the left foot forward (LFF) and the right foot forward (RFF) track starts were practiced. The philosophy behind this training protocol was to ensure that participants received equal practice with the preferred and non-preferred stance so that a dominant stance, if it existed, could emerge. Consequently, the relationships between the dominant track start stance and the lower limb asymmetry measures could be determined more accurately. Participants were male (N=11) and female (N=11) swimmers, aged 12-16 years, from the UWA-Uniswim National Age Squad. Kinetic and kinematic data were collected for the track start prior to and following the 7 week training intervention. The intervention was finished when a participant had completed approximately 14 dive sessions where both the LFF and RFF track starts were practiced. The performance criterion measure was time to 5 m. Despite significant differences in vertical force and velocity contributions following the intervention, time to 5 m did not improve for either the LFF or the RFF track start. Four different measures of lower limb asymmetry were collected, including footedness, the preferred track start stance, and the dominant take-off limb for the unilateral and bilateral counter-movement jump (CMJ). Sixteen of 22 participants displayed changes in their dominant track start stance. Eleven participants showed biases for one stance (6 for the LFF & 5 for the RFF), and 11 participants remained or became more symmetrical. Results indicated that the preferred track start stance was the only measure of asymmetry that was significantly related to track start performance (x2[2]= 6.71, p=.04 for pre-intervention & x2[2]=7.77, p=.02 for post-intervention). All other measures of lower limb asymmetry were shown to be unrelated to track start preference and performance. It was suggested that the 7 week training intervention did not provide a sufficient amount of time to see conclusive effects on 5 m time or to make conclusive comparisons between the dominant track start stance and measures of asymmetry. Since the preferred track start corresponded with better performance less than 50% of the time, it was suggested that swimmers and coaches experiment with different dive techniques to find the start which is most effective for them and spend more time on them during training.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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